(I wrote this while drinking a lot of coffee – and watching a lot more be wasted – at a convenience store in the middle of the night, in Missouri City, Texas. No lo traduje al español. ¡Lo siento!)
Gallons of coffee lemming their way into spill guards. It’s our society of abundance ejaculating arrogantly at 3 A.M. The convenience store coffee must be fresh. Why? Our humans can be mistaked for industrial products. Plant the seed of an idea in the fertile soil of a human brain and you’re creating a thinker. Plant the seed of a need and you create a consumer. We are products. The marketers themselves do it for that need, the false need that screams. The coffee must die because the coffee must be fresh! The simultaneous flows of the research-named varieties (for there must be choice so that we’ll know there’s choice) take shapes which change with the instants. There is splash, overflow, a hint of disorder in the celebration. Waste is power. Leftovers humble us and to be humble is to be weak. Marketed products market products to other products while we live, or act, or buy, in the age of consumption singularity. It’s cultural transmission. We sell the crap we’re sold, logical venerations fulfilling the will of the comfort god. For his good grace and lavish logic we enslave the world, while we convert them to the faith. Look at the stuff you make, which we desperately want, it must be want-worthy, look how comfortable it makes us. We’d love to share what we have with you, but how would we impel you to pick the beans to brew the coffee that fills our drains and sewers? Laura’s mother is provoked by Speciesism, but can’t bear day-old coffee. My fellow Americans, the state of our existence is weak. We must work, and the Colombians must work, and we all must work hard, or we will not be comfortable. The coffee flow stops and the visual impact of the 63 blinding ceiling lights loses the aural competition of Niagara Arabica until the worker (exercising the noble office of work) begins the humming process that will produce the next 12 gallons, to fuel other workers’ mornings until exhaustion or expulsion as waste. The workers or the coffee? We’ll be like Wall-E, except we’ll all have to perform useless tasks for forty hours a week to prove our worth. For the value of work is sacred, which is why we always think of the peoplewho picked the beans as we evacuate the vital vessels to ensure faultless freshness. And it’s why no American drinks coffee without thinking of the noble workers who make it possible. It’s why we think of the single mother in Indonesia who stitched the many stitches (there are many stitches) whenever we put on a t-shirt. No American mother gives her 9-year-old a new cell phone without explaining the effort of the miners (minors?), assemblers, and thinkers that brought it into being. Why? Because in America, we value work.
The proof is in the pay. We encourage work with the lavish reward of $7.25 an hour. Bullshit. Or $1.70 a day if you’re in Guatemala. Make me things or you will starve, María. We have all the wealth in the world because we took it. You are powerless to make us give it back. You don’t even get to vote. The world is a tiered democracy where the wealthy (us, here, follow along) get to vote on what to do with the wealth and we choose not to give it away. Imagine if the different economic classes each had their own government, each with power over the resources owned by its members. The wealthy Senate would not choose to tax its constituents to provide food stamps for the more populous poor. Such is the world. We justify not giving the global poor any sat in the structure of the global economy with geography. We have the wealth, you don’t live here, you don’t get to say what we do with it, and don’t come here. Even functioning national democracies everywhere would not add up to a democratic world.
People have no idea how wealthy our country is. That’s why we think a $15/hr minimum wage is outrageous. But, off the cuff, Americans work about 300 billion hours a year. That fits into the GDP about 50 times. That means the average wage is $50/hr. And we can’t afford to make the minimum a third of that? By the way, of course, fuck GDP as an insane metric that says the economy is comprised by the quantity of shit we charge each other for. A free hug adds nothing to GDP. A $10 hug is economic activity! Bullshit. BP brags about how much work is needed to turn oil into fuel/pollution (job creation!). As if having to do more stuff is good! And no one questions it. We have a major unemployment problem. Amazingly, our response to the fact that we don’t have enough work to occupy everyone 40 hrs a week is to celebrate the creation of more stuff that has to be done. I invent a product that adds X value and requires no labor, the world shrugs. I invent a product that adds X value and needs 20,000 workers to make and I’m a hero. Oh no, not me. The CEO. What logic is there in a society where automation threatens workers’ livelihoods instead of liberating them from toil!? But there can be no revolution because we do not think. Or we think, but only the thoughts that grow from the seeds that are planted. Am I blind, or is it actually painfully obvious and completely ignored that we’re taking an entirely illogical approach to the problem of work?
On another note, laboring some is probably good for a human’s growth. That’s clearly true of intellectual work, and probably of real toil as well. Overwork, however, destroys the possibility of growth, which requires leisure and reflection with energy and passion. TV may be the opiate of the masses, but labor is the compactor. It crushes people all the week until they want nothing but simple pleasures in their free time. We finally have the technology so that all humans can attain a good standard of material living, health, and intellectual living with a reasonable amount of work, perhaps 15/hrs a week. Yet we don’t do this. Some must work too much. Others are denied work and then denied access to our wealth. Then others, the world’s proletariat, must suffer both overwork and lack of access. How do we accept this without questioning? It cannot but be mind control, intentional or not. School never mentions the craziness of inventing a need for “job creation” instead of redistribution. We have enough stuff, obviously. We. Do. Not. Need. To. Make. More. I dream of a shrinking GDP as the gift economy grows, as we decommodify our lives and each other.
(Ok, there’s a lot more, but it digresses, so I’ll leave it there. I’d love some comments to discuss some of these ideas! Bye for now! :):) )